> That's fair enough, but it should have an impact on our perspective
> of what alternatives to capitalism exist. If even Cuba, which like it or
> not has been held up as a model however much one might dislike
> the term, goes the way of Vietnam and China, then it's just another
> nail in the coffin of socialism as traditionally defined.
If U.S. socialists have ever taken Cuba as a paradigm on how socialism is to be built (which is not a denial that certain, but very general aspects of the Cuban experience are relevant to U.S. socialism), that is not the problem of the Cubans. I mean, of course, your problem is also my problem, etc. but I mean that it's not a first-order problem for Cubans; it is a first-order problem of socialists here. It is manipulative to demand that the Cubans, after all they've done and gone through, adapt their decisions to *our* needs.
I have read the economic and social policy guidelines issued by the party, and followed the subsequent debates in Cuba to the extent possible. I am in touch with a fair number of rank and file Cubans from all walks of life, some of whom are not communist. I have watched on the Internet each of the latest speeches given by Raúl, including the central report on Saturday. I have read the summaries of the commissions' deliberations published on Sunday. Nowhere is there a hint that they will be laying off people from the state sector and letting them deal with their personal situation on their own. Cuba has limited resources overall, and -- therefore -- the Cuban state and the communist party have limited resources to help people deal with the situation that will ensue. No doubt. But they will use every bit of their very limited resources to help people deal with duress in a decent way, most especially children, women, and the elderly. In spite of appearances, the status quo is not much better in that sense. I expect the communists to lead in that effort in the organized way in which they usually do these things. There's no magic there. It's just real people helping real people in very concrete ways, because they think that's what must be done.
A final point: Raúl has been very adamant about the urgent need of strictly separating the functions of the party and the state. People who have had experience living and working in proto-socialist societies, understand that there are very strong inclinations that make ruling parties "lead" by relying on the state resources as their main lever of political power. If you can hire people, you have power.
In general, if you have access to resources, you have power. And the communists have come to rely on it and exercise it. I am not talking about outright corruption, that does exist. It's the line of least resistance. Call it incompetence, lack of political awareness, etc. But that defeats the purpose of building anything resembling socialism.
So Raúl repeated several times in his central report -- often impromptu, outside of the written text -- that party membership is absolutely *no* requisite to hold any job or public office in the state apparatus; that state decisions do not have to follow the party line. The state should have the full authority to legislate, enforce laws, and adjudicate disputes in its own terms and abiding by its own legit processes, responding to the demands of every citizen, regardless of political affiliation. Every citizen has equal rights under the constitution and should have equal access to power and to influence the decisions of the state. Period. Yes, the communists are the ruling party and to the extent communists lead and have clout in the state apparatus, their policies will find a way to be legislated and implemented, but that has to be done in ways that don't defeat the purpose. The logic of the party is different. He quoted an old speech by Fidel referring to the grandparent of the CCP, the ORI, where Fidel haranged that the party should lead by the example set by the conduct of its militants and by the validity of the ideas and political line they spouses. Easier said than done.
Raúl also repeated that there should be virtually no secrets in Cuba, that the excuse of the press by not investigating and exposing crap, misuse and abuse of public property, is that: an excuse. That the state secrets that Cuba has are so few and far between that they can be counted with a hand, and that they are very well kept, thank you very much. The activities of the state apparatus are or should, in general, not be secrets. The public has a right to know what and how decisions of their agencies are made. That public criticism of the state and the party are not going to weaken the revolution. Moreover, that's the only way the revolution will survive, if they can spot problems in time by exposing them publicly. We'll see how those things are translated into practice. I agree with Juan Carlos Monedero that, under the circumstances of Cuba, with the U.S. still stalking their every chance of toppling the revolution, the communists do not have many more chances to get things right.
Which leads me to another thing: As far as I can tell, the main driving force of these changes is not a bunch of corrupt bureaucrats/proto capitalists trying to legitimize their ill-gotten (or to be gotten) wealth, setting conditions were they will overtly and shamelessly act as capitalists. I am not saying that this element is entirely absent. I'm saying that it is not the driving force of the process. These changes are mostly being demanded by young people who view them as necessary conditions for them to access basic goods and things indispensable nowadays to make your personal life modestly productive and, hence, free. It is nonsensical to say it, but -- to paraphrase Monedero -- a revolution has to trust the people on whose name it is carried out. That, in and by itself, does not guarantee a successful outcome, but the alternative seems worse.